Health in hot seasons

In the month of January, the average day time temperature range in Uganda is 24-33°C, but it can soar up to 40°C in the far north regions due to dry winds that emanate from the dry northeastern borders of Kenya and South Sudan.

The prolonged hot period is a potentially unwelcome catalyst for a host of disasters with far-reaching consequences, and appearing in many forms such as food security risks, bush fires and worsening conditions of health for those involved. The effect of hot weather on health cannot be understated and in many ways can be quite significant for many would-be sufferers. It may churn and worsen the already debilitating health for some individuals or precipitate new problems for others. And so to stay healthy and enjoy the outdoor fun and relaxation that is often associated with warm periods, good preparation usually goes a long way if one is to limit the health damage that can be done by the prolonged hot periods. Some people are more susceptible than others and may require more attention; these are babies, elderly and people battling chronic illnesses.

The natural body response to the increased heat is for the body to sweat and cool off. But excessive heat may upset the balance and strain the body’s cooling mechanisms and this is often a source of problems. Excessive sweating often leads to dehydration which may precipitate a host of other health problems that follow; these include red itchy skin, thirst, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramps and poor coordination.

Heat stroke, which is a medical emergency, is often experienced in hot weather. It is a condition that requires urgent medical attention, is usually as a result of overwhelming the body’s heat regulatory mechanisms and some of its symptoms may include confusion, slurred speech, an altered mental state, a lack of sweating and muscle twitching.

Some of the common health conditions that are precipitated or augmented by high temperatures include:

  1. Migraines: The dehydration of prolonged hot periods often triggers headaches and migraines.
  2. Respiratory conditions: These are conditions that manifest as a result of dysfunctional airways. Higher temperatures tend to build up volumes of air pollutants that disrupt normal functioning of the airway and exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and many other conditions that may cause breathing problems. The more susceptible individuals should consider staying indoors for most parts of the dry season.
  3. Heart disease: Dehydration can be a monster for people with heart problems because it increases the strain on the heart function. People with congestive heart problems and arrhythmias are usually at a risk of worsening the disease.
  4. Autoimmune disease: For diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the flare ups are common with prolonged heat conditions.

The prudent thing to do usually for susceptible individuals is to keep hydrated, avoid being outdoors for prolonged periods and also speak to your doctor on the best ways to mitigate effects of the hot weather.



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